fellow feature

a q&a with fellow deanna turner

What was your initial impression when you first learned about the Adventure Rowan project you would be undertaking? How did this idea come to fruition?

Healthy Rowan is a public health coalition within Rowan County that consists of many different entities and programs that promote different health outcomes within the community. My public health/community role aspect within my clinic is being a Program Coordinator for Healthy Rowan. I was very excited to learn about Adventure Rowan because my clinic is an adult-only clinic so I loved the opportunity to still have a chance to interact with children.

How have your own self-care and health practices influenced your work with the kids?

In general, I love working with children but I feel like working with the specific demographic of children (95th percentile of obesity) within Adventure Rowan has given me the opportunity to interact in a different way. The majority of our children are minorities, specifically Hispanic. It is nice to be able to culturally relate with my children while also showing them that they can eat some of their favorite meals, but just with slight changes or in moderation. I have struggled with my own personal weight, especially within my culture, so it is important to me that the children I am working with understand that being healthy is not just meeting a traditional goal weight, but eating well and having good health habits are what truly matter.

Has this experience in any way changed or challenged your values or preconceived notions about how to best reach and instill healthy values in youth?

I feel like within our group of children, they do not fit the standards of what you would think of as obese; meaning, they do not look as if they are within the 95 percentile of their weight for their ages. With children, it is not as easy to spot who is overweight as it is with adults, so I feel as though the approach is different with children. It is not just "exercise more," because most of the time, they have the same amount of energy and are recieiving the same amount of exercise as any other child their age. Some of our participants are even playing sports so they receive more exercise time than other children who weigh less. However, they still have these issues related to their health, so I have learned that you have to approach their health values differently. For instance, nutrition education is extremely important, and not just for the children. Often, they are not the ones cooking their meals, but parents, who sometimes do not know what they are giving their children isn't always the best choice for them, need the most education in this area.

Tell us about the group of kids you've been leading.

We have about 7 participants that we see every Tuesday and Thursday. Most of the participants bring their families and other siblings so we typically have 20 people in each class, with the majority of them being children. They are all very energetic and, surprisingly, very eager to learn about nutrition. Their ages range from 5-12 years. Most of them come from different schools, but have formed relationships with each other and provide support for one another. Two participants and their families are from last years cohort and decided to do the program again this year.

What has been your favorite or most successful topic to present on?

My two favorite topics have probably been MyPlate and GoSlowWhoa Foods. Both are nutrition education supplements that our children have really picked up. When we first started, a lot of them could not name a fruit and did not know that each meal should include a fruit. Now, they can tell you so many different types of fruit and they know the recommended amounts of food they should be eating a day.

What do the program participants have to say about their time in the program?

We have almost every participant showing up every day eager to hear about what we are learning or doing for that day. Our children are very vocal and so far we have only received eagerness to come and willingness to learn.

How has this impacted your relationship with the broader community?

I am new to the Rowan County community, so it has been taking a lot more work to connect with the community. Adventure Rowan gives me the opportunity to work outside of the clinic and within the city of Salisbury. I have formed a relationship with the workers at the community recreation center we use for the program. I was able to do a CPR training course with them and form a familiar and friendly friendship with the employees at the recreation center.

We typically have instructors from the community teach the children on certain days. This has allowed me to see what all the community has to offer, as well as form relationships with the instructors. For example, we have had a hip hop class that I intend on visiting on my own time as well as a bicycle class led by PedalFactory, a local bike shop that increases bike accessibility.

Has this impacted how you approach your clinical work?

With Adventure Rowan, I have undergone many trainings in nutrition education so I am able to give my patients pointers and tips for healthy eating habits that help improve their health. Education is such a key component, because a lot of our patients want to be healthier, but do not know that the simple things they are eating are not the most nutritious for them.